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A history of basic guitar effects

If you’re a guitarist, chances are you have a row or two of pedals in front of you: fuzzes, wah-wahs, delays, reverbs and so on. Ever wonder where these devices came from in the first place? Let’s go to for a history lesson.

The passing of Glenn Snoddy—the Nashville recording engineer who made an early fuzz box in the ’60s and died this May—set off a round of questions and debates about who exactly was the inventor of the fuzz effect. The answers prove murky, depending on whether you’re talking about the effect itself, the fuzz pedal, or whose stories you choose to believe.

But the affair got us thinking that we should celebrate the creation and early uses of other effects that revolutionized the electric guitar. In this installment of a new mini-series, we’ll look at four examples of groundbreaking first effects—the artists that used them, the recordings on which they were first or most influentially heard, and the ways in which they originated and evolved.

This time out, we’re probing four classic effects that first caught attention for their occurrence in the natural world, or for musician’s ability to produce them by simple mechanical means—driving the innovators of the pre-rock’n’roll era to invent ways of producing them on demand.

Learn about tremolo, vibrato, reverb, and echo here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37884 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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